European Commission charges Qualcomm with antitrust violations

The European Commission filed antitrust charges against Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), claiming the company illegally paid an unnamed customer to use its chipsets exclusively and that it sold chipsets below cost in an effort to force a competitor out of the market.

"I am concerned that Qualcomm's actions may have pushed out competitors or prevented them from competing," said Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, in a prepared statement. "We need to make sure that European consumers continue to benefit from competition and innovation in an area which is at the heart of today's economy."

Qualcomm said it has been cooperating with the EC "since the outset of these matters" and will respond formally sometime in the future.

"We look forward to demonstrating that competition in the sale of wireless chips has been and remains strong and dynamic, and that Qualcomm's sales practices have always complied with European competition law," the company said in a prepaid response.

Qualcomm must respond to the EC's charges by April, and it could face stiff fines and be forced to change some of its business practices if it is found to have violated the EC's rules.

Qualcomm also said the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) has launched an investigation to determine whether the company's patent licensing arrangements violate the Taiwan Fair Trade Act. That investigation is in its early stages, Qualcomm said, adding that it believes it has complied with the Act. 

The San Diego-based company reportedly paid nearly $1 billion to settle an investigation in China into its licensing practices earlier this year.

For more:
- see this European Commission announcement

Related stores:
Qualcomm to reportedly pay $1B fine to end Chinese licensing probe
Qualcomm faces possible fine from South Korean antitrust authorities over licensing practices